On You, the Woods, and That Fire.

dscf2729So on Easter Sunday I celebrated something of an anniversary.

Three years ago on Easter Sunday, I had made enough money selling my teddy bears to finally leave living in the woods, in that little spot 20 miles from the nearest town with no car. I had made a great friend while living out there. In order to ship the bears that had been sold I walked 3 miles up to the nearest little hamlet where there was only a sheriff’s station, a convenience store, and a post office. Every day I would walk three 3 miles up and 3 miles back just to ship those bears, and one day a car pulled up beside me and said, “I see you walk everyday. Do you need a ride?” I soon came to discover that he was also in a similar boat as mine. He had no choice but to move so far away from civilization, he knew no one out there, and was struggling just as bad as I was. When he dropped me off, I told him to come over sometime if he wanted some company. He did. Often. We’d play cards, sit out in the grass and talk about our dreams, what we wanted out of life. We’d share our food. He’d give me lifts up to the post office so I wouldn’t have to take the 6 mile trek. He became a very good friend of mine. And once I had made enough money selling teddy bears, it was time to go and he offered to drive me four hours down to Orlando. So on Easter Sunday of 2011, Mario and I piled into his car and left the woods for good, with great thanks to all of you that supported me from the beginning and with many thanks to Travis who said to me when he dropped me off, “You’re gonna survive. You’re good at that. I’m gonna try, but I don’t think I’ve got the same fire that you do.”

I never saw, nor heard from him again. But, I’ve thought of him often.

On this last Easter Sunday there was quite a bit of nostalgia playing through my memory. I was resurrected that Sunday that Travis drove me out of the woods and into my future. That was the moment I gained something. I was so used to losing everything, however, that was the day that I GAINED, FINALLY, something….hope, a future, a purpose. I spent the day thinking about that….And three years after that I was now ready to make another leap into rebirth.

This Sunday though, I was met with something that I had never expected. I discovered so many people are disappointed in me. I never saw that coming. But, I understand it. I crumbled. I was shaky. I contacted two very close people to me. My friend in Wyoming and a new friend in the Netherlands. I told them how devastated I was. It was never my intention to anger anyone. I felt like an absolute disaster. They both reminded me, that for the many people who are disappointed and angry, there are still quite a few that believe in me and wish to see me succeed.

“I’m gonna try….but, I don’t think I’ve got that same fire that you do.”

And that kept haunting me. He drove me out of the woods and back into the world because he believed in me. He saw something in me that inspired him. He saw that I had a chance….because of that fire in me. Its amazing how a month long friendship became a lifelong sense of purpose and duty.

To all of you that believe in me, I owe it to you to continue. I owe it you to continue surviving. Scratch that. I owe it to you to THRIVE. You’ve invested in me not only your commerce, but your hope. That a little man with a set of knitting needles doesn’t just knit teddy bears, but reminds with his writing about his life and his craft, that hope, determination, community, and civility still resound loud and strong in a world of screaming and yelling.

I cannot apologize enough for not having some of your bears out on time. I am doing my absolute best to make everyone happy and get them done in a timely order. And I’ve seen some argument about how I can sell bears if I haven’t delivered the ones that were already ordered. Well, I have to keep moving forward, keep going. I have to survive (quit saying that, I tell myself, say THRIVE). Since my first sell in 2011, I have knit and mailed nearly 1700 bears by now. That is a LOT of teddy bears. And they keep going out everyday. One after another. And though some may be late, they always arrive. They may not be on time, but they get there. And I have some of the most amazing supporters anyone can ask for. They defend and say, “It was worth the wait. That little teddy bear showed up on my worst day and made it better.” That matters to me. That keeps me going.

So, to those of you that have not received your bears, they are coming. I apologize for the delay, but they are coming. And I promise you when you open that box and see him wrapped in that little brown paper with only his eyes peeking out, you will melt. And the tag wrapped around his neck with a note from me will remind you that no matter what happened, that little bear was worth the delay. You have something to cling to, to hold, to bring into actual life all the hope and joy you’ve wanted to see exist in the world.

It is because of this that I spent Easter Sunday thinking about all of you that took me out of the woods, out of homelessness, and into life, into purpose. And I made a decision that the future of this blog, the future of these bears would rest in your hands. This endeavor of mine rests on what you want. I’ve been told I don’t communicate enough. Very well. I give you my pledge that every single email be answered, and that this blog will also feature YOU. You can say what you want, good or bad, but it must be written with your name. No screen names. It must be your name with contact information. And I’ll post your writing here on this blog as a featured guest. Good or bad. I want to add more video content. I want to do more video blogs showing you the process of this knitting of mine. I want to offer more interaction. More skyping, where you can talk to me and speak with me. Ask me why I’m doing well, or why I’m aggravating you. I want us ALL to be involved in this. I owe my everything and anything to YOU….and I want to be more accessible in more than just emails. I want us to be a community. If you’re mad at me, I’ll listen. If you have questions about knitting with double pointed needles, I’ll do what I can to help you. If you want to show me your own projects, I’ll look at them and possibly share them with others.

So, I guess my announcement is, this blog is now in your hands. If you want me to go, I’ll go. I’ll shut this down and go. And then figure out what to do from there. But, if you want me here, if you want us all to be a part of something that can really do some good (by reminding me of being bad at things), I’m in. If you want this to be a community, a place of refuge,

I’m in…..

….if you are.

The future of this blog and these teddy bears is now in your hands.

 

 

A Sock Yarn Bear And an Announcement

IMG_0264In a couple of hours I’m going to be making a very important announcement about the future of this blog and of these teddy bears. In the meantime, I have this bear made of sock yarn. I actually think the gradient in some sock yarn is pretty cool, pretty clever. And I have it on hand, so I wanted to see what would happen if I worked one up. He came out rather nice, I think. Great, cuddly face and a sense of plush personality. What’s great about the sock yarn in gradient is that no two will end up looking alike.

 

 

 

So, he’s here and ready for you if you want him…..Measures about 10″ tall…..And Mario is not included. Ready to ship with signed card.IMG_0263 Click here.

Stay tuned for later this evening. I’ve got some emails I need to check through and some other things I need to tend with, but I’ll be back later to make my announcement.

 

Forget the Gauge. I’m More Worried About YOU.

As any knitter knows, there is the philosophy of gauge. But what I think knitters forget sometimes is the PSYCHOLOGY of gauge.

I never pay attention to the “gauge” concept. Ok, ok, ok. The intention behind a gauge is that if you’re following a pattern so many stitches across, and so many stitches worked up, should result in an exact measurement. Its an important idea, a very solid way of measuring how well you’re doing against a pattern….but, then I taught Kara to knit and it struck me, something about the gauge only says what SHOULD happen….not what IS happening.

Kara came to me and said, “To keep up with your orders, you need some help. Teach me to knit.” So, I did. It would be easier in life if I subjected to the same comments I’ve received before from people around the world: “You wanna make this work? Charge more….” But, I can’t. I just can’t. I WANT them to be affordable. I mean, we are so bogged down with orders that need to be filled, but in order to keep up with the rent and the electric and food and all of that, I still have to keep selling…at an affordable price. I could make them more expensive, but they would be exclusive. And that is never ever what I wanted. I wanted anyone to be able to have one. I HATE the idea of exclusive.

So I taught Kara to knit within a week and she was flying. Double pointed needles in hand, she was helping me with the “bodies” of the bear. But, when I received her work I was concerned.

The stitches were strangely tight, eerily close. And as I watched her working up another body I couldn’t help but see this expression on her face, this focus that looked like someone trampling others to get to the finish line. I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “Calm down….What’s the matter?”

“We have to get these done. Now.”

“But, I can’t use these. They don’t fit. The gauge is off.”

“You said there was no gauge.”

“Well, that applies only to SANE people. What the hell is wrong???”

The extent of our conversation goes no further than her and I, but that is when I realized that the gauge for measurement is flawed compared to the gauge for your emotional ability to pick up some needles and work up a piece. If you are hurried, rushed, wide eyed and filled with the assembly line terror of just finishing, this won’t work. Nothing you work up and knit will work. It’ll all come out flawed and strange, reeking of your negativity, the things you don’t wanna say, the things in your heart you wish to ignore; those pierced eyed and clenched fists will burn themselves into your knitting and it will scream of everything you DID NOT want to say.

However….If you let that all go, and move through the action with extension of what peace you’re looking for, and NOT what you’re demanding, then something different will happen.

I’m often accused of not being able to maintain a relationship because I can never do the holding hands, kiss and cuddle bit. Sorry, but I show my love in other ways. I work these hands in moments of frenzy that bring to life something that I cannot PRECISELY say, but rather implied. I spend six hours working up one bear with all hope and intent that you will FEEL that, you will KNOW that I love you, and that I thank you. That I am grateful for you keeping me alive and with a place to live and food to eat every time you buy one of my bears. And, there have been times I’ve worked up a bear and I never mailed him, because I could look at him and see the stress, the fear, the hopelessness and I couldn’t dare send him. Those bears are taken apart and reworked with the reminder of, “Make him speak for you, make his face say something kind….”

“No….that’s not what we do,” I told Kara. “We don’t knit just to get it done. We make these bears with hope and compassion. We don’t do it just to get orders filled. It has to be done right…..it’s like any other art form….it has to come from the heart. Otherwise people could get the same emotionless crap from Walmart. This is different. Every action of your hand must reflect the beauty you wish to convey.”

(Imagine if we all did that often, daily, every minute…..the actions in your hands reflecting the beauty you wish to convey.)

Never would I have thought the gauge had metaphysical significance, but there you have it….You find epic moments of the soul found in simple action. A gauge is, I guess, not really intended to show mathematical importance, but to reveal something more primal and informative. If your gauge is off, then perhaps something inside is bothering you.

Thank you so much for all of you saving me another month. I’ll get these bears out…..But each one that goes out must be done right, must be worked up right, must hold, contain, and bridge a moment between you and I. You HAVE to feel my care for you when you get him…YOU HAVE TO. You HAVE to know that I love you and thank you when you open that box and see his face. It MUST be the first thing you see and feel…..Those little embroidered eyes must say, “Thank you for rescuing me.”

Otherwise, this won’t have meant a thing.

(PS. After our talk, Kara’s gauge kicks ass.) :)

 

Hope Springs Eternal

Spring is slowly whispering amidst budding wildflowers and beams of warm sun. Squadrons of bees swirl through the daisies; hope lifts life towards the blue sky with promise. Spring is pretty much here. I love spring. As someone who has been burned and reborn and pushed down to rise back up again, I do not take for granted watching life bloom around me. I FEEL spring. I feel the hope in it. I feel the promise of life moving forward. I’ve always tended to be an optimistic person, but spring ratifies the idea that you can begin again, nothing is lost for good. I always tend to meet my challenges with hope and optimism.

I know that I have some orders that I am finishing up, and trying to get out, but I still need to get some more teddy bears adopted out. With five days until the end of the month and rent looming, I’m hoping that some of you might go ahead and adopt one. Actually, if a LOT of you adopted bears, I could cover rent AND the electric. I have a new design in my shop. A little guy with a white muzzle. So, if you know someone feeling blue, or in need of something to hug, or if you just want to have a friendly little face to keep around for some company, PLEASE adopt a teddy bear.

IMG_0222I need to get back to work now. Need to get back to getting more and more orders out. I pray everything works out. But, again that is the hope in spring. I am hopeful and optimistic that at some point the scratching to survive is replaced with a bountiful thriving. One day it will. I KNOW it will.

Mario Luvin’

It’s a bit late on my end. About midnight 30. I’ve got a long weekend ahead that I’m looking forward to. Tons of bears to work up. So, I’ve got a huge pot of vegetable soup on the stove and a full can of coffee. Did a lot of work today, but come tomorrow morning, there is nothing that should keep me from my needles. From here until Monday morning, it’ll be my own little knit-a-thon. I got everything I need. Yarn, a movie to watch, some good for you food rolling in a simmer on the stove, a serious idea about ambition, and a cat who wants to be as involved as possible.

I’m lucky, you know. This little buddy of mine has been around since the beginning. She never left when I was homeless, but stuck by my side when others left. She doesn’t ask much from me, but a bit of love, some food in her bowl, and a spot on my lap in the evening. Earlier, while I was working up my soup I caught a glimpse of her. I don’t have a knitting basket. I have a cardboard box I work out of. I dunno….It seems its always been like that. I never had the money for a knitting basket. I used a little grocery bag before to keep the yarn from rolling all over the place, now I’ve progressed to a cardboard box. So, I peeked round from my soup and saw my little Mario cuddled up against my yarn in my yarn box. I’m lucky because she doesn’t rip it to shreds like cats are prone to do. Nah, she just sat cuddled up against it and fell asleep. And something about that just made me realize how cozy a weekend this should be. A big pot of soup, a ton of yarn to work through with purpose, and my best bud curled up beside me.

I hope ya’ll have a great weekend. Cheers!

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(Oh! I forgot to mention the movie I was gonna watch. I’ll give you a hint:

“It looked just like Skinny and Sweet…..except for the little skull and crossbones on the label…”

You Won’t BELIEVE the Scandalous Thing This Man Does With NEEDLES!!!

It all started with a little pissy blurb about Madonna. “You Won’t Believe the Scandalous Thing Madonna Did Now!!!” Such urgency with all those exclamations…..

I don’t get a lot of internet time. I’m working up, knitting up my bears. I spend most of my day listening to the radio. Talk radio. So, I pop online real quick just to get some info on the world at large, that big ol’ sphere of fear that’s been casually working itself into a big boom of bad attitude. I don’t mean the globe, I mean the internet itself.

So, as I peek around the really BIG topics of the day (the missing airplane, the issue of Ukraine, Beiber’s move to Atlanta), I saw this little bit about Madonna over off to the side. “You Won’t BELIEVE it!!!!”

I’m a fan of the lady. Sometimes the music, but more so, of the impression she’s made, and let’s not forget the longevity. But this blog post is not about Madonna. She’s just the anecdote. This blog is about the headline I was compelled to click on. So, I did. Stupidly, awkwardly, I did. And there was a selfie of Madonna fully dressed on the bathroom floor with the caption, “Should I shower or take a bath?” I can’t seem to find the scandal in it, so I was foolish enough to keep peeking down at the comments people left.

She’s an old whore.

Basically that’s it in a nutshell. That’s all the comments thrown into one simple phrase, not quite a haiku, but solid enough.

She’s an old whore.

Now, there were more links on the side also with similar phrases. “Madonna Hates Her Own Music!” “See Madonna’s Selfie Fail!!!!”

…..of course, for research purposes mind you, I clicked, read comments and saw precisely and correctly what this website was doing. “Click Throughs” equal cash for advertisers. You toss up a rather scathing headline about someone, goof through an awful opinionated collapse into pity, then allow people to comment. And people get paid. There’s a good industry of people who promote and support artists out there (or is it in here?) on the internet. But, sadly, there is an even bigger industry built on trash talking. Its a sad industry. But, its quite successful. It damages, destroys, and ruins people.

Funny, the cause du jour, the big fight on all people’s minds, is bullying…..yet, they can’t wait to go online and comment with absolute hatred for someone with whom they don’t like for any reason other than a photo. Someone made a comment about my book. “I hate the idea of this book….even the cover annoys me.” Although they had never read it….. And I saw another comment. “HE needs to eat a sandwich…..no, actually a whole cow.”

So be mindful. Before you decide to comment on a website on someone’s life, or work, or hard times, or good times…..be mindful of what it is and why it is you feel the need to do harm, rather than good. Sit back and really ask, what the hell am I doing trash talking this person? WHY??? WHY am I spending my time not just giving hate, but experiencing hate, LOVING the hate, ENJOYING the hate……?

Someone is making a bundle off of your hate. And you get nothing in return but a chance to say something……So make sure what you say has something of importance and benefit. The best lesson in life I’ve ever learned? You’ll get back precisely PRECISELY what you put in…..You put into the world all that angry, bullying crap and that will be ALL that you get back in return.

Don’t write something you might regret. Don’t write something that you would not want to read about yourself. Whatever happened to “If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all?” Is that just an old fashioned thing? A Southern thing? A polite thing? What is the big damned deal about being kind? Why is KINDNESS sometimes the LAST resort in confrontation and opinion. Why is the first always disdain?

So, you understand the reason for the title of this blog then, don’t you? Someone is expecting me to prick myself like a self appointed acupuncturist, or maybe shove needles up my bum, or maybe use needles in some phallic way. But, no…..the truth is, the scandalous thing this man does with KNITTING needles is knit teddy bears. That’s about as filthy as it gets.

My first official selfie…..I ain’t touchin’ NUTHIN’ #mindful.

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Its Funny, This Life of a Male Knitter

There are a few of us knitting fellas out there. Quite a few, actually. And there are even less of us fellas that knit that do it for a living. So, I can understand why it might take a second or two for people to get used to it.

But, I never really think about it, I really don’t. I just do it, you know? It never occurs to me. The idea of the uniqueness in a male knitter is about as far fetched as the idea of a female firefighter…..isn’t it? I mean it MUST be, since it seems to come up a lot. Who would have thought that this craft, when approached by men, was a novelty?

Well, lately I’ve been thinking more about it, I’ve been more conscious about being in public and knitting. Not in a bad way, hell no! I wanna see if there is curiosity, and if there is, then I want to start a conversation, get them involved, get them knitting. I don’t want to be one of those huffy people who sits back and acts “bothered” because someone finds them interesting.

You know the type. “Oh, I’m so bored with being unique, that’s ALL any ever talks about…..How unique I am. Can’t we talk about anything else other than how unique I am?” That’s just…..well, it’s just rude.

IMG_3040I’ve really gotten more conscious about my knitting when people ask me what I do for a living and I say, “I’m a world famous knitter,” (then I toss on my cute little cocky grin. It’ll melt you :) ). They chuckle a little then go, “HA HA! That’s funny! No, really…. What do you do?”

There have only been a few bad experiences. Just a handful. I recall one time I went into a small, local yarn store (or ‘LYS’ as they say in the biz). I wont’ say which one because I don’t believe in trash talking people online. I think it’s a touch cruel and cowardly to sit behind your computer and spew out how much you hate someone without having to take responsibility for it. But, that’s a different blog. Anyway, I went into the store because I wanted to see what sort of yarn they had, maybe give them a little business. I strolled in quite ready to explore and was met at the door by the owner who stopped me in my tracks and asked briskly, “Excuse me, may I help you with something????”

“Nah, I just wanted browse, see what you have.”

I turned to the left and she stepped in front of me. I stepped to the right and she did so again before asking, “Anything I can help you find???” Now, I know tone says everything, and her tone screamed of nastiness.

I said, “I was just gonna look at some yarn.” Then it dawns on me. Ok ok ok. Maybe not because I’m a man, but because I look like a scruffy man with his beat up ball cap, tattered jeans, and boots. THAT is why she’s giving me grief. Why else would a man be in her store? No, even worse, why would a poorly dressed ruffian be in her store? “Those” people don’t knit. And it all came together when she finally said, “We don’t have a restroom if that’s what you’re looking for.” I just turned around and left her store, not saying anything out loud, but replaying in my head that scene with Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.” (“Big mistake. HUGE!”)

But most of the time the response is often quite cordial. People approach me with curiosity and I’m more than willing to answer their questions. I think its cool that people want to know more. They get inspired by it. And that has to be the coolest part about being a male knitter. A lady in the corner knitting booties at Starbucks doesn’t get as much attention as the skinny little redneck up front knitting a teddy bear. People notice….they ask questions….they smile….and walk away going, “I wanna learn to knit.”

Knitters are an agreeable group. We create things tenderly and with care to give as gifts. We don’t knit voodoo dolls….well, actually I know quite a few people that DO knit voodoo dolls, but they’re cute! Knitters carefully select the right yarn for just the right project to be given to just the right person at instinctively the right time. So, if I’m spotted by someone who takes notice of my knitting, and the curiosity of it being done by a man instills some inspiration in them to be a knitter, then I’ve just inspired someone to put something good into the world.

And that’s putting much more needed goodness in the world, one stitch at a time.

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Queens, Vinyl, and the Vietnamese. Sounds Like Home.

The other day I was asked a question. A very simple question. “Where are you from?”

For a split moment of thought, I turned to them with a half cocked smile and said quietly, as if it were some revelation, “Orlando.”

Now, I know I have an awfully long history with Savannah. My family is rooted there, and on St. Simon’s Island. My family brood slips out of Southeast Georgia. But, there was something that occurred to me as I was about to answer that question about where I was from, that was more attune with where I felt I belonged, not necessarily where I was reared.

It is rare that you hear someone say they are from Orlando. It really is such a transitory place, that people are not inclined to say they are from here….because they all expect to leave at some point soon. This town is a springboard for greener grass in a better city somewhere else. “Not enough culture, bad transportation, it’s not New York, it’s not Chicago. I can’t wait to get to a REAL city.”

They may have their arguments. But there is something to be said about yearning for something more, and not realizing what you have at the moment. I’ve been in and out of Orlando for 20 years now. I first moved here from Berlin in the early 90′s, by way of a quick trip back to Savannah. And every time I left Orlando I was always drawn back. Peni used to call it the magnet beneath the city that clamps onto you and never lets you go. And I think there is reason for that. Though it may not be a large city (only 250,000 people at last count), its big enough to offer many things to do without being pressed by the price. And Orlando is filled with an amazing collection of neighborhoods. I mean, you can go to the botanical gardens the first Monday of every month for free. And they have “date night” once a month, where they play an old film in the gardens where you can bring your own food and beer. Or you can stroll Ivanhoe Row where nearly every shop is hinged on vintage. Clothes, furniture, vinyl records, all nestled against beautiful Lake Ivanhoe. You can hit the Peacock Room over in ViMi (Virginia Mills), and have a drink and explore the work of some up and coming artists in the city. You can stroll further down and find yourself in a sort of strange parallel universe where the shops cater to drag queens. Yes….size 15 pumps are readily on hand, as well as wild wigs and oversized dresses. Or closer to my apartment, you can forget that you’re even in the states, the shops and grocery stores all Asian ventured. Little Saigon. The weather is agreeable, the cost of living is low, and the crime is pretty low. I’m proud of this city. I like it here….right here, right now.

My point is, these neighborhoods all rely on a uniqueness that wasn’t planned, but happened naturally by people who didn’t care to find greener grass, but make their own little plot of the world just as impressive and enjoyable as any other. These neighborhoods were built on people happy with what they have….These neighborhoods were not abandoned for the hopes of better ones in far off lands. There is a sense of community. A closeness. For instance, I’ve been going to the same Publix here on Shine avenue since 2000….and the same cashiers work there. And they remember you…..

So, I’m knitting outside today because the weather is wonderful. The sky is blue. You can hear the birds in chirping uniform. You can smell the barbeque from over there, and the simmering scent of Pho over here. The azaleas are blooming in polka dotted pointillism wherever you squint. Its a beautiful place to be. Here. Now…..

Being here, being available in the moment of now…..is a beautiful place to be. Not clinched to whimsical wishes to be or go or find or seek or endeavor. To sit right here, exist right here in the place and moment you are, is a beautiful thing. Where you are now….is exactly where you are from. Because life moves forward into the future, from here, from now, from this moment….And so from now on, when asked where I’m from I’ll simply have to confess. “Orlando.” Because I like being here.

I have to share a picture with you. This bear was hand delivered. Not by me :) The little bear was knit up, then sent to Wyoming to be given to someone else….and they wanted to make sure my bear was hand delivered safely to its recipient. I love pics like this!

Ok, back to my knitting….ya’ll have a good day!

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I’m an a ‘Murican.

Sorry that I haven’t posted anything in quite some time. To be honest? I’ve been afraid to.

In the last couple of months every attempt I made to open my mouth and say something caused me some trouble on a personal level. There is no secret in saying I’m pretty much a lonely guy. I mean, out in this vast world I have made some wonderful friends through this blog of mine.  There are people out there I’ve never shaken hands with, nor hugged, that I truly love and adore….and I feel that desire is reciprocated. But, in the world, in real time….passing people on the street, or sitting at a cafe, or meeting a friend of a friend of a friend has been enormously difficult. You see, I have opinions about the world, life, love, emotions, purpose. And many of the people I come in contact with don’t care for my ideas. And so, when I go to write something here on my blog I stop myself and say, “damn…I can’t say that. I’ll get Dixie Chicked.” You remember that hullabaloo, don’t you? The Dixie Chicks were getting some rather impressive prominence, then all of a sudden they spoke their minds and SPLAT…..that was the end of them. And to be frank, I’m in no financial situation to speak frankly. One wrong blog and I’m out….shut out, condemned, and boycotted.

Now, I wouldn’t take so much of this to heart f it has not happened in real time. Its easy to lose two to five strangers you meet through encounters. Its another thing to lose thousands of people with one open and honest idea about your politics or your religious beliefs. So, I’ve been so TERRIFIED of saying anything at all….for fear the moment I do it will cost me a ton of people I’ve grown to love, but never met. You. I’ve been afraid of losing YOU.

I criticized the president and I was called a racist. I confirmed that I was a conservative and I was called a Nazi. And when I said I was gay, I was a traitor and told I ought to be “drug into the streets and shot for betrayal.” That a gay, Christian, conservative was in no way different than a “Jew helping the Nazis.” And then when they find out I’m from the South, well, then that’s all they need. I’m already a homophobic, racist, sexist, backwards, uneducated, inbred idiot. I was called a “‘Murican.” And I had to go find out what they meant. Definition is simple: someone overly patriotic…usually a homophobic, racist, sexist, backwards, uneducated, inbred idiot.

We’re not going to talk politics now. No. We can save that for some other time. I’m weary of it at the moment. I want to talk more about the strangeness of being called a traitor if you’re a patriot. I could walk the street right now, walk away from this blog in a moments notice holding an American flag, strut down Bumby Avenue holding it high saying the Pledge of Allegiance and no one in this neighborhood would applaud. They’d call me crazy, weird, suspect, extremist, a doomsday prepper, a militant….’Murican.

I want to talk about the hypocrisy that my gay brothers have fallen into. For decades we have fought for acceptance, tolerance, not to be treated special, but to treated with the same dignity as anyone else…..and yet, most of the gay organizations I tried to align myself with were adamant that conservatism, Christianity, and dislike of this current president were completely and unequivocally unwelcome. They would not tolerate it. They would not accept it. They would not treat it as another opinion thrown into the thought process. My gay brothers are forcing tolerance onto many with the idea of boycott….and I don’t like it.

So this blog post isn’t about one political idea over another. I really only like to do those discussion face to face. We can be vulnerable in front of each other….and often times patient with each other. And discuss, and get passionate and angry and agreeable, because we can look into each others eyes. And more so? When all is said and done, we can shake hands and walk away having learned something or taught something. This blog post is more about the concept of dismissal. If I don’t like your ideas……then I want to get rid of you for good. And that ain’t the ‘Murica I live in.

Funny that I can be so prone to really like someone of a liberal mindset, but they won’t allow me the time to discuss my ideas. I’m immediately dismissed. I’ve never said to anyone that I hated them. I’ve never said to anyone that I hated them for their politics. Hell, my best friend, Kara, is a socialist. I’ve never said to anyone I didn’t like them because they were gay. I never said I hated anyone because they approved of Barack Obama. But, If I HAD done any of those things, I’d be put in a shit can, shook around in social media, then tossed to the side never to sell another book or bear again.

But, every once in a while you have take an enormous stand. I’ve been afraid to say whats on my mind because I thought you would leave me. I am a lonely man, spending hours and hours a day alone and knitting out my teddy bears. And in those lonely hours my mind goes so fast and quick with ideas and thoughts that I can’t wait to write them down…..but wait! You could lose your supporters. So, there has been this fear that if I say something, I’m toast. And that’s the problem I have….the situation this media has made out for us….that your opinion will destroy you, if its not one we agree with. And if you’re on social media???? Well, gives new meaning to the term “social disease.”

But, I’m here….and I’ve always been a scrappy little guy. A survivor. I don’t want to see any of you leave because you disagree, I want you to stay. I want dialogue, I love it. I want us to EXERCISE the rights handed to us by the First Amendment, not cower under them, not fear them. I want us to USE them. Isn’t that some of the best conversations that come out of “sip and knits,” or “bitch and stich” gatherings? Us knitters know them well. We sit back with a group of people, work up our projects and talk….sometimes gossip, politics, sometimes technique. It all depends. But, we share.

On the knitting front, I’m pushing bears out daily, and its going well. I’m using technology (ok, the USPS website) to let people know postage has been paid, now the bear has been shipped, now the bear is one day away from your front door.

On the email front. I’m getting about 200 per day, and its gotten really REALLY hard to spend the time going through them. I know that’s not an excuse, but if I don’t respond quickly, its not because I’m not trying. And hopefully, if I start making more money I can actually hire someone (yay capitalism!) and have them help me with the administrative stuff. I can see it now:  I’m sitting, knitting and my “assistant” says, “you have an order for two more bears and Heather wants to know where hers is.” And I can easily just say, “Pull out Heather’s order and let’s see what we can do….”

So, I guess in a nutshell what I’m trying to say is I’m very sorry for not having written anything sooner. (Giovanni! I SAW YOUR EMAIL! WILL RESPOND PROMPTLY!) But, I’ve been really REALLY worried that if I embark on blog posts that mean something to me, that many of you would flee……but, I can’t see that happening anymore. I can’t. Because the more I think of it, what we share is something that transcends politics and religion. It moves higher than geographic boundaries and cultural differences. What we share, does however, move into uncharted terrains of peace, love, compassion……and above all, hope and tolerance for each and every one of us who come here to share. One topic at a time, one idea at a time…..

One stitch at a time.

God Bless ‘Murica.